Above: Gilfred Powys
Several months before Gilfred’s death, I requested for a written history of LWF. We had nothing in our digital records to record the early years associated with our 25th Anniversary in November 2017. Given the many demands on his time, Gilfred had missed several email requests, but in the end, I found him by phone as he was packing for another trip to South America. He responded that he would write down what he could remember and send it to me. I waited for a digital file. 48 hours later, I received about 12 pages of handwritten text about LWF’s early years. It was scanned and sent via email. Parts were indecipherable, and other parts appeared stained with airline food or coffee. Still he had delivered. (I was later told that much of LWF’s early history sits in file drawers in his ranch offices).
Gilfred and Kuki Gallmann were legend in their early attempts to realise a Forum that would serve the needs of Laikipia. Predicated on Richard Leakey’s earliest efforts at wildlife conservation, wildlife utilisation and benefit sharing, Gilfred and Kuki were guided in their endeavours by two outstanding KWS advisors – Philip Wandera and Walter Njuguna.
We learned that the first 8 years of the Forum were alternately guided by Gilfred and Brian Heath, as they supervised the culling and processing of zebras with the assistance of Josephat Musyima. Gilfred presided over the governance of the Forum, and led the development of community outreach and dialog on benefit sharing – a process that became known as FORUMNESS. Josephat helped in this effort and Gilfred only left the governance of the Forum in 2007, 15 years after its establishment. And 15 years after its establishment, LWF remained the only Wildlife Forum in the county.
Today, 25 years later, we find that need for FORUMNESS even more strongly. Consumptive wildlife utilisation is no longer practiced, but the demands for equitable and accountable resources sharing has never been more important. Our communities are better educated, our natural resources never in higher demand, and our human population grows at an unprecedented rate, putting even more pressure on Laikipia.
25 years later, LWF reflects on a name change that is broader than wildlife. It’s reforming its Board with greater representation, creating a broader Forum. It will soon appoint an advisory council that will give weight and further credence to the integrated nature of our natural resources conservation and management in this landscape. To Gilfred, we owe this thanks as he helped to guide those early years of the Forum. He provided the flexibility and foundation; and he believed in the integrity of this landscape and its neighbours. He provided a backdrop that allowed the Forum to change with circumstances. Thank you, Mzee Powys, for that commitment to Laikipia.
Executive Director, LWF